By the time summer rolled around in 1997, Bill Clinton was President–again. Madeleine Albright had become the first female Secretary of State. Scottish scientists announced the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly. The English Patient won “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards, J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was published, and Teletubbies debuted. Bruddah Iz passed away. And two intrepid young men from California launched Maui Time Weekly.
I moved to Lahaina shortly thereafter, and frequently ran into the paper’s founders, Tommy Russo and Mark D’Antonio, at beach parties and live shows around the island. With their then-biweekly paper, Mark and Tommy clearly intended on creating a community around surf and music, with a deep love of Maui and its people. And for a California transplant like myself, I relished their insight into the local scene.
Five years later I joined the ragtag team as proofreader, Mark left for other adventures, Tommy’s smartypants girlfriend at the time (now wife) Jen ran the books (and calendar and classifieds), and our little ragtag team grew into a beachfront office on Front Street. I have the fondest memories of our newsweekly ‘ohana, which included raucously entertaining graphic designer Rudi King and sales dude Jeff Onderko, and my very first writing mentor, editor Anthony Pignataro, a man of great patience and virtue.
The thing is, what Tommy was trying to do with MauiTime was a little crazy. Maui is slow to change despite its ever-increasing influx of visitors (which is part of its charm, and its downfall–hello, Pali traffic), and the established paradigms were largely conservative. The mission of alternative newsweeklies–like MauiTime–was to shake things up a bit, to give voice to the powerless and to be a progressive champion of the truth. Not just what bureaucratic and business leaders wanted to hear, not what the tourist board would necessarily approve of, but the real deal. While Anthony covered the weightier issues, I dove into the arts and culinary worlds of the island, to discover and connect with Maui’s creative spirit. We had little money but we had Tommy, king of gumption. And we had purpose.
That purpose led me to meet and interview so many of Maui’s talented musicians, painters, tattoo artists, chefs, filmmakers, authors, comedians, bartenders, woodworkers, tantric practitioners, fire-breathers, palm readers, alchemists, nutritionists, sexologists, and karaoke divas. They became my people. And they are the heart and soul of Maui, far beyond the in-flight “Welcome to Hawaii” video and Instagrammed sunset pics.
Love it or hate it, MauiTime exists at a time when the truth is inconvenient. But it’s vital. We were a small group of people from different backgrounds who joined together for a common goal. That sense of community and bootstrapped camaraderie is something I sorely miss now as a freelance writer working from home in the sprawling metropolis of the Bay Area.
Alternative newsweeklies like MauiTime experienced their greatest popularity nationwide in 2009. Since then, we’ve seen the fall of many of these revered champions of progressive media, some of which were more than 20 years old–including the Honolulu Weekly, which folded in 2013, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which shuttered its print publication in 2014 after 48 years. The fact that MauiTime still exists, that it’s managed to stay viable and not succumb to outside forces, is nothing short of miraculous.
MauiTime is like your favorite uncle. He’s the freewheeling family member your parents don’t approve of, but he’s the one you can count on to give it to you straight. He pushes buttons, curses with relish, and you may not agree with what he says all the time. But he’ll take you surfing, hand you a beer on the lanai after dinner, and debate the latest news and politics because he knows you can handle it. If you’ve got a date, he’ll lend you his slickest cruiser and recommend the perfect oceanfront restaurant, while giving you the 411 on which bands are playing that night. What would we be without that uncle?
My tenure at the paper is but a tiny blip in the history of the paper at this point. But what I learned during that time will stay with me for the rest of my life. MauiTime was the gateway for my love of writing, for staying curious, for learning and thinking and growing. I’m forever grateful for being given the chance to write the “Holoholo Girl” column, as provocative and sometimes painful as it was. But that column allowed me to speak my truth as a restless young (-ish) woman on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, and my search for meaning. It’s something I think a lot about now, the gift of expression and of having a voice. May we all be as free.
Samantha Campos was MauiTime’s Calendar Editor and later Associate Editor from September 2002 to August 2007.